Helena Swanwick

Helena Swanwick

Helena Swanwick, the daughter of the artist, Oswald Sickert, was born in 1864. Her mother, Eleanor Louisa Moravia Henry (1830–1922), was the illegitimate daughter of a professional dancer and a fellow of Trinity College. She had three brothers, of whom the eldest was Walter Sickert.

In 1868 the Sickerts moved to England and settled first in Bedford, and then in Notting Hill, where they became friends with William Morris, Johnson Forbes Robertson and Edward Burne-Jones.

At fourteen Helena went to Notting Hill High School. While at school she read, The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill. Deeply influenced by Mill's ideas, she rebelled against her parent's views on the role of women. She complained about the way she was treated by her mother. "A boy might be a person but not a girl. This was the ineradicable root of our differences. All my brothers had rights as persons; not I. Till I married (at the age of twenty four), she never, in her heart, conceded one personal right."

In 1882 Helena's father refused to pay the fees for her to attend Girton College. However, she had a sympathetic godmother who agreed to finance her studies. Her tutors included Henry Sidgwick, Alfred Marshall, and John Neville Keynes. She gained second-class honours and in 1885 she was appointed lecturer in psychology at Westfield College.

While at the University of Cambridge she met Frederick Tertius Swanwick, a lecturer in mathematics at Owens College . Although there was a thirteen years age difference, the couple married in 1888 and set up home in Manchester. There were no children of the marriage. Helena Swanwick became a close friend of C. P. Scott and his wife, Rachel Scott, over the next few years wrote articles and reviewed books for the Manchester Guardian.

Swanwick also did voluntary work in a girls' club, which brought her into contact with the Women's Trade Union League, the Women's Co-operative Guild, and the Independent Labour Party. During this period she met Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters. In 1905 she joined the North of England Suffrage Society, which was affiliated to the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. Soon afterwards she read about how Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney defied "the Liberal Stewards at Sir Edward Grey's meeting". She wrote that "my heart rose in support of their revolt. I sent them a subscription and, if I had not, for the moment, been suffering from an attack of influenza, I think I should have rushed into Manchester and enrolled myself with them. I am glad that this did not happen, for I should very soon have discovered differences so fundamental as to require me to break away again!"

in 1908 she "addressed one hundred and fifty meetings all over England and Scotland with an average attendance of six hundred persons." The following year she became editor of the NUWSS's weekly journal, The Common Cause. As a pacifist, Swanwick was a strong opponent of the Women's Social & Political Union. She also disapproved of what she believed was the anti-male stance taken by its leading members, Emmeline Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst.

When in 1912 Millicent Fawcett tried to persuade Swanwick to be less critical of the Women's Social & Political Union, she resigned her post as editor of The Common Cause. The following year she wrote a book where she was able to express her own views on the best way to achieve universal suffrage, The Future of the Women's Movement (1913).

In July 1914 the NUWSS argued that Asquith's government should do everything possible to avoid a European war. Two days after the British government declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914, Millicent Fawcett declared that it was suspending all political activity until the conflict was over. Although the NUWSS supported the war effort, it did not follow the WSPU strategy of becoming involved in persuading young men to join the armed forces.

Despite pressure from members of the NUWSS, Fawcett refused to argue against the First World War. Her biographer, Ray Strachey, argued: "She stood like a rock in their path, opposing herself with all the great weight of her personal popularity and prestige to their use of the machinery and name of the union." Swanwick resigned from the NUWSS over its policy on the war.

The day after war was declared, Charles Trevelyan, a member of Asquith's government who had resigned over this issue, began contacting friends about a new political organisation he intended to form to oppose the conflict. This included two pacifist members of the Liberal Party, Norman Angell and E. D. Morel, and Ramsay MacDonald, the leader of the Labour Party. A meeting was held and after considering names such as the Peoples' Emancipation Committee and the Peoples' Freedom League, they selected the Union of Democratic Control (UDC).

The founders of the UDC produced a manifesto and invited people to support it. Over the next few weeks several leading figures joined the organisation. This included Helena Swanwick, Mary Sheepshanks, J. A. Hobson, Charles Buxton, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, Arnold Rowntree, Morgan Philips Price, George Cadbury, Fred Jowett, Tom Johnston, Philip Snowden, Ethel Snowden, David Kirkwood, William Anderson, Isabella Ford, H. H. Brailsford, Israel Zangwill, Bertrand Russell, Margaret Llewelyn Davies, Konni Zilliacus, Margaret Sackville and Olive Schreiner.

In January 1915 Mary Sheepshanks published an open Christmas letter to the women of Germany and Austria, signed by 100 British women pacifists. The signatories included Helena Swanwick, Emily Hobhouse, Margaret Bondfield, Maude Royden, Sylvia Pankhurst, Anne Cobden Sanderson, Eva Gore-Booth, Margaret Llewelyn Davies and Marion Phillips. It included the following: "Do not let us forget our very anguish unites us, that we are passing together through the same experiences of pain and grief. We pray you to believe that come what may we hold to our faith in peace and goodwill between nations."

At a Council meeting of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies held in February 1915, Millicent Fawcett attacked the peace efforts of people like Mary Sheepshanks. Fawcett argued that until the German armies had been driven out of France and Belgium: "I believe it is akin to treason to talk of peace." After a stormy executive meeting in Buxton all the officers of the NUWSS (except the Treasurer) and ten members of the National Executive resigned. This included Chrystal Macmillan, Kathleen Courtney, Catherine Marshall, Eleanor Rathbone and Maude Royden, the editor of the The Common Cause.

In April 1915, Aletta Jacobs, a suffragist in Holland, invited suffrage members all over the world to an International Congress of Women in the Hague. Some of the women who attended included Mary Sheepshanks, Jane Addams, Alice Hamilton, Grace Abbott, Emily Bach, Lida Gustava Heymann, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Emily Hobhouse, Chrystal Macmillan, Rosika Schwimmer. At the conference the women formed the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Helena Swanwick was banned by the government for attending the conference but she soon joined the organisation and later that year became its chairman.

Her biographer, Jose Harris, has argued: "From 1915 to 1922 she was chairman of the Women's International League for Peace, which aimed to harness feminism to the peace movement; and throughout the First World War she campaigned for a negotiated peace and the establishment of an international peace-keeping organization. She was highly critical, however, of the terms under which the League of Nations was set up in 1919, partly because the league was permitted the use of force and economic sanctions, and partly because it was committed to supporting the Versailles settlement, which she regarded from the start as an unjust and unstable peace."

In 1924 Swanwick became editor of Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Union of Democratic Control. She also wrote for the feminist journal, Time and Tide. She continued to campaign for an improvement in women's rights. In November 1927 she wrote: "The earlier struggles of women for emancipation necessarily take the form of beating at the closed doors of life. Till these are opened and we can see for ourselves what there is of knowledge and opportunity we cannot know how much we can put to good use. Many of these doors are still closed, but far more have been opened even in my lifetime than, as a girl, I should have ventured to hope. Our immediate and difficult task is to test all and reject what is not for us; to modify much and adapt it to our needs and natures. It is a commonplace to say that women are born into a world still largely man-made, it is their business to modify it till it becomes a human world as fit for full-sized women to live in as for full-sized men. It is my conviction that most men have not a notion how immensely better the world could be made for them, by the full co-operation of women. But that's another story."

Swanwick was active in the League of Nations Union and was a member of the British Empire delegation to the League of Nations in 1929. Swanwick wrote several books including an autobiography, I Have Been Young (1935).

Helena Swanwick, depressed by poor health and the growth of fascism in Europe, committed suicide on 16th November 1939 at her home in Maidenhead, after the outbreak of the Second World War.

I was angry at what I held to be a violation of my privacy and I exclaimed "You forget I'm a person!" I remember this because my mother thought it so funny, and for long after she mocked me saying "I forgot! You're a Person!" A boy might be a person but not a girl. Till I married (at the age of twenty four), she never, in her heart, conceded one personal right. Once I had a husband her whole attitude towards me changed and just as formerly I could do nothing right, so latterly, I could do nothing wrong in her eyes.

When I read in the paper of the action of Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney in defying the Liberal Stewards at Sir Edward Grey's meeting in 1905 my heart rose in support of their revolt. I am glad that this did not happen, for I should very soon have discovered differences so fundamental as to require me to break away again!

Sex before marriage was the natural female complement to the male frenzy of killing. If millions of men were to be killed in early manhood, or even boyhood, it behoved every young woman to secure a mate and replenish the population while there was yet time.

When mobs, assiduously working up by a few papers or a few persons, broke up meetings or assaulted speakers, no protection was to be had, and the tone taken by the authorities was it "served them rights". Members of the UDC were shadowed by the police, raids were made on offices and private houses, and in many cases publications passed by the Censor were seized and impounded, and people who were engaged in selling them were taken up, threatened and intimidated.

The earlier struggles of women for emancipation necessarily take the form of beating at the closed doors of life. But that's another story.

The welfare and the wealth of a society depend upon the full functioning of all the beneficent and productive activities of all its members. The health and happiness, the mental growth and development of all these members depend upon their full functioning. Therefore all theories of the State, or of government, or of family organization which require the limitation or restriction of such functioning are sterilizing theories; all conditions of society which make such limitation or restriction inevitable, are diseased conditions and intelligent people will not sit down content with the disease and its resultant restrictions, but will set about removing the disease and the restrictions with it. Sometimes the removal of the restrictions actually precedes and encourages the removal of the disease.

It takes a very patient and understanding sort of woman not to go off the deep end when she hears men talk of 'the unfair competition of women.' Because women carry a pretty heavy handicap; because the conditions of their lives in the past have made their organisation very difficult and they have therefore been more docile in the hands of employers; because their work is apt to be more intermittent (owing to domestic claims) and more unskilled (owing to lack of training); because they have schooled themselves, through necessity, to wait on themselves and spend less on themselves than their male fellow-workers do these fellow-workers complain of their 'unfair competition' and have made persistent efforts, which are by no means ended to exclude women from any work which is attractive enough for men to desire it. This is the real sex war and, like all war it is immensely wasteful of life, it creates an immense amount of ill-feeling and it does not arrive at the desired results.

Women must work because they need the work and the independence resulting from it and because the community needs it. Women should have the same reasonable freedom in the choice of their work as men have. And it is no answer to this plea to say (as one often hears said) that men have very little choice; for their condition is not bettered by worsening that of women and they would do well to join forces with women in improving the education and organization of all human beings of both sexes so that they might all be better adapted to the work they undertake. One most vital reform is to keep children out of the labour market.

The old theory is that a man "keeps" his wife, and this is just, so long as he prevents her from keeping herself. But when a woman becomes able to keep herself, and when the conditions of marriage allow of her exercising this ability, there will be no moral basis for the claim that a man should "keep" his wife. It is a claim deeply demoralising to both parties. He may employ her, and pay her; she may employ him, and pay him; they may go into partnership together. But a self-respecting girl does not like the notion of being "kept." Marriage in itself is not work, and should not be paid for. It is no longer universally held to be a wife's duty (any more than a daughter's duty) 'to be there,' always on tap as it were. This, in itself, is a great improvement in the married state, bringing that element of variety and independence which prevents satiety and the devastating habit of taking everything for granted. Doubtless it will often be convenient, so long as individual-run homes exist, for the wife to do, or to supervise, the domestic work. If she does this efficiently she should be paid the value of it; in the case of inefficiency the work and the pay should be transferred to another. The conditions of these individual homes are becoming increasingly distasteful to women, many of whom seem to have no aptitude at all for domestic work, and dislike the confinement and solitude. For these women some form of cooperative housekeeping is the obvious solution; incidentally also this is a far more economical way of carrying on domestic business. A considerable part of this cooperative housekeeping will naturally be done by men as cooks, furnace-men, cleaners, etc., for men's gregariousness at once leads them to take up women's work (for example, a spinster's) when they can do it in company, and be paid for it.

The Feminist History Of Bicycles

Tinkle your bells and fasten your helmet — it's National Bike Month, which means it's time to delve into the history of this most feminist of machines. Yes, you read that correctly. In ways both explicit and subtle, the invention and popularization of the humble two-wheeled bicycle in the 19th century helped move the cause of female equality and freedom forward in the modern world even today, there is no more feminist way to get around.

Before the bicycle came along, women were expected to progress on foot, in carriages, or on horseback, always while supervised and preferably with the utmost slowness and delicacy. How you traveled denoted your class to be walking the streets was seen as a highly suspect activity, and was tightly moderated among 19th century women of the upper classes, who were meant to stay largely indoors or to venture outside only with chaperones and in acceptable public spaces.

Various inventions changed that, from the department store to the car — but the bicycle was likely the most crucial of them all. Inexpensive, easy to use and capable of high speeds, the velocipede, as it was then known (the women who rode them were known as "velocipedestriennes" at the time), would remake the world for women in the 19th century, and has done so ever since. Get on your bikes and let's have some fun.

Helena Swanwick: a woman of International Law

We continue our series of biographies of women in international law with an analysis of the figure of Helena Swanwick by Sara De Vido. During the First World War Helena Swanwick extensively campaigned for peace, and wrote on women’s rights and the system of collective security of the League of Nations.

Name: Helena Maria Swanwick (formerly Sickert)

Date of birth/death: 1864-1939

Nationality: British

Early life: Born in Munich, Germany, she was the daughter of Oswald Sickert, an artist of Danish nationality, and of Eleanor Louisa Moravia Henry, the daughter of a professional dancer and a fellow of Trinity College. She had three brothers, one of whom was the painter Walter Sickert. When she was four, the family moved to UK, first to Bedford and then to Notting Hill.

Education: She attended the Notting Hill High School, during which she read the Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill. She immediately demonstrated an interest for issues related to women’s rights. She could not accept the way women were treated, indeed, even in her family. She complained that: “[a] boy might be a person but not a girl. This was the ineradicable root of our differences. All my brothers had rights as persons not I.” Her father refused to pay her fees to enter Girton College, which eventually she attended thanks to the support of her godmother. She then attended the University of Cambridge, where she met her future husband, Frederick Tertius Swanswick, lecturer in mathematics, who was thirteen years older than her. They married in 1888 and moved together to Manchester.

Career: During her life, she was an activist, a suffragist, a lecturer in psychology, economics and sociology, a delegate for the British government, and a journalist. At the turn of the century, she wrote for the up-coming liberal paper The Manchester Guardian, and she became an activist in the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. Before the First World War, she publicly spoke in favour of women’s political rights. In 1905 she joined the North of England Suffrage Society (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies). In 1909 she became the editor of the journal The Common Cause, linked to the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, but she resigned after facing some criticisms for her opposition to the Women’s Social and Political Union led by Pankhurst. During the First World War, she became the first woman member of the Union of Democratic Control, she wrote many key pamphlets as well as a history of the union. She was also the editor of the Union’s review, Foreign Affairs. She later became an active member of the Labour Party, and she sometimes joined the Labour Party advisory committee on international questions. She was also part of the 1929-1931 Labour British Empire’s delegation to the League of Nations. She was later criticized for her position with regard to Nazism. She was convinced that German aggression was due to the uneven treatment Germany had received at the end of the First World War and she supported the appeasement policies of the right wing national government. She underestimated the danger posed by Hitler. After the outbreak of the Second World War, deceived by the destruction of her dream for peace, she committed suicide in 1939 at her home in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

Honours: She was made a Companion of Honour in 1931.

Contributions to international law

Swanwick has been considered a pioneer in the field of international relations, but she also contributed to international law as well. In particular, she outlined some examples of State Practice, which paved the way for the evolution of international customs in the 20th Century. Her scholarship were hence a precursor to the development of international law.

Firstly, in the field of the resolution of disputes, Swanwick joined the assumption of many commentators at the beginning of the twentieth century according to which the role of physical force was in decline and was used less in the resolution of disputes. It was this statement of practice that led to the affirmation of the principle of peaceful resolution of disputes in international law.

Secondly, on the prohibition of the use of force and the system of collective security, she criticised the provisions included in the Covenant of the League of Nations that contemplated the use of force in a system of collective security. Notwithstanding the criticism, she believed in the League of Nations as a new order capable of avoiding international anarchy. She abhorred war, which she considered to produce the worst consequences on civilians, especially women and children.

Thirdly, on State compliance, Swanwick was aware of the fact that States had not respected international legal obligations for centuries. She was convinced that peace could have been achieved by attitudes of mindfulness more than by the language of obligations. Here we can recognise the germination of the theories on moral suasion and network regulation at the international level.

Fourthly, she anticipated further feminist studies on the impact of war on women. She particularly stressed the fact that women during war do much of what is regarded as men’s work. War let women work beyond domestic walls and show their capabilities. As she said: “[t]he other kind of women are, through the war, becoming good ‘copy.’ But women have not suddenly become patriotic, or capable, or self-sacrificing the great masses of women have always shown these qualities in their humble daily life. Now that their services are asked for in unfamiliar directions, attention is being attracted to them, and many more people are realising that, with extended training and opportunity, women’s capacity for beneficient work would be extended” (The War in its Effect upon Women). She believed that women could have played a key role in the prevention of armed conflicts.

Helena Swanwick on War & Peace

Helena Swanwick was a feminist, peace activist, and journalist. Born in 1864 to a Danish painter and English mother, Helen spent most of her life in England and attended Girton College, Cambridge despite the opposition of her father. Upon reading John Stuart Mills On the Subjugation of Women, she became an active campaigner for a woman’s right to vote. A lecturer in psychology at Westfield College and a journalist writing for the suffragette publication Common Cause and the Manchester Guardian, Swanwick believed strongly in non-violence.

She was a co-founder of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom during World War I and was a British delegate to the League of Nations. She suffered extreme depression during the build up to World War II and died, perhaps by suicide, in November 1939 at the start of the war.

The following excerpt is from her pamphlet Women and War published in 1915.

We are told that wars are an eternal necessity. We must take this from no one, but examine for ourselves whether it is true, Men make wars, not women. Not only do women not 6 fight. men, but they do not fight each other. Why? We are so used to this fact that very few of us have asked why. Is it because women chiefly desire security? It is true some people will answer that women do not fight because men fight for them. Men commonly speak of ” fighting for hearth and home,” and it is this aspect which is commonly put forward in popular appeals. Women and children are always put into the firing line of pro-war argumentation, but it is obvious that the settlement of national quarrels by an international tribunal would provide far better security for women and children than the incessant menace of war which we call peace. The organisation of physical force will not give security until it is known that such organisation will be used only in defense of international right. It is impossible to believe that men have merely lacked the wit to devise means of attaining security (at least as against one another) if, indeed, security had been their chief desire. It has not. Men have desired other things and have striven, by physical force, to grasp their desire. Individual men, groups of men, classes of men, do sometimes -attain their desire, for what it is worth, in this way. But the masses of the people and all women everywhere pay the penalty. (p. 7)

Swanwick, Helena (1864–1939)

British suffragist and pacifist. Born Helena Maria Lucy Sickert, 1864, in Munich, Germany died 1939 dau. of Oswald Sickert m. Frederick Swanwick, 1888.

Staunch advocate of pacifism and disarmament, studied Moral Sciences at Girton College and became psychology lecturer and journalist joined North England Suffrage Society (1900) but opposed militancy edited suffragist newspaper, The Common Cause, and later contributed to The Manchester Guardian, The Observer, The Nation, and The Daily News became chair of Women's International League for Peace (1915) after WWI, was delegate to League of Nations (1924, 1929) and became vice-president of League of Nations Union writings include The Future of the Women's Movement (1913), Builders of Peace (1924), Collective Insecurity (1937) and Roots of Peace (1938).

See also autobiography, I Have Been Young (1935).

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Would the world be more peaceful if there were more women leaders?

During the opening months of the First World War, in the midst of the incendiary jingoism roiling Britain, the poet Dorothea Hollins of the Women’s Labour League proposed that an unarmed, 1,000-strong ‘Women’s Peace Expeditionary Force’ cross Europe ‘in the teeth of the guns’ and interpose itself between the warring armies in the trenches. Hollins’s grand scheme did not materialize, but neither did it emerge in a vacuum it was nurtured by a century of activism largely grounded in maternal love. Or, as her fellow peace activist Helena Swanwick wrote: The shared fear that in war “women die, and see their babies die, but theirs is no glory nothing but horror and shame unspeakable.”

Swanwick helped to found the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, an organization dedicated to eliminating the causes of war. She hoped for “a world in the far-off future that will not contain one soldier.” Many activists believed that if women had political power, they would not pursue war. But how true is this? Do incidences of violent conflict alter when women become leaders, or when their share of parliamentary representation rises? In what sense do women mother wars?

If you ask this question out loud, not a minute will pass before someone says ‘Margaret Thatcher,’ the British prime minister who waged a hugely popular war in the Falklands that led to her landslide 1983 election victory. Thatcher is hardly the only woman leader celebrated for her warmongering. Think of Boudicca, the woad-daubed Queen of the Iceni people of eastern England, who led a popular uprising against the Roman invaders or Lakshmi Bai, Queen of Jhansi and a leader of the 1857-58 Indian Mutiny against the British or even Emmeline Pankhurst, who led British suffragettes on a militant campaign of hunger strikes, arson, and window-smashing, then, in 1914, became a vociferous supporter of Britain’s entry into the Great War.

But these examples are anecdotal because, throughout history, women leaders have been extremely rare. Between 1950 and 2004, according to data compiled by Katherine W. Phillips, professor of leadership and ethics at Columbia Business School, just 48 national leaders across 188 countries—fewer than 4% of all leaders—have been female. They included 18 presidents and 30 prime ministers. Two countries, Ecuador and Madagascar, had a woman leader, each of whom served for a mere two days before being replaced by a man.

Given the tiny sample size, does it even make sense to ask if, given power, women are more or less likely than men to wage wars? The medical anthropologist Catherine Panter-Brick, who directs the conflict, resilience and health program at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University, thinks not. “It stereotypes gender, and assumes leadership is uncomplicated,” she told me. Perhaps she had thinkers such as Stephen Pinker in her sights. In The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011), his study of violence throughout history, Pinker wrote: “women have been, and will be, the pacifying force.” That assumption is not always grounded in reality, says Mary Caprioli, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Along with Mark A Boyer at the University of Connecticut, she counted 10 military crises in the 20th century involving four female leaders (seven of which were handled by Golda Meir, Israel’s prime minister from 1969 to 1974). To assess the behavior of women leaders during crises, they say, one needs a large sample—”which history cannot provide.”

Oeindrila Dube, a professor of global conflict studies at the University of Chicago and S P Harish at New York University, have studied four centuries of European kings and queens. In their as-yet-unpublished working paper, they examined the reigns of 193 monarchs in 18 European polities, or political entities, between the years 1480 to 1913. Although just 18% of the monarchs were queens—making their analysis less statistically reliable—they found that polities ruled by queens were 27% more likely than kings to participate in inter-state conflicts. Unmarried queens were more likely to engage in wars in which their state was attacked, perhaps because they were perceived as weak.

The fear of appearing weak affects modern women leaders too, according to Caprioli, perhaps causing them to over-compensate on issues of security and defense. She notes that women who emulate men, such as Thatcher, Meir, and India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi (1980-84)—who claimed to be a ‘biform human being’, neither man nor woman—are more likely to succeed as political leaders. They must also contend with negative stereotypes from male opponents: For example, Yahya Khan, former president of Pakistan (1969-71), said that he would have responded less violently toward Indira Gandhi during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War if India had had a male leader. “If that woman [Gandhi] thinks she can cow me down, I refuse to take it,” he said.

Dube and Harish found that women were more likely to aggress if they were sharing power with a spouse, as in the case of Isabella I and Ferdinand V, who co-ruled the Kingdoms of León and Castile between 1474 and 1504. A notable exception is Catherine the Great, who became Empress of Russia in 1762 following the assassination of her husband Peter III, and whose military campaigns extended the borders of Russia by 520,000 square km, incorporating Crimea and much of Poland.

For women to lead, they must often begin with political involvement—running for state or national parliaments, leading campaigns, organizing women to run for office. In 2017, the worldwide average of women in parliament is only 23.3%—a 6.5% gain over the past decade. That gain is significant: Caprioli’s data shows that, as the number of women in parliament increases by 5%, a state is five times less likely to use violence when confronted with an international crisis (perhaps because women are more likely to use a ‘collective or consensual approach’ to conflict resolution.)

States are also more likely to achieve lasting peace post-conflict when women are invited to the negotiating table. Although the number of women included in peace talks is minuscule (a United Nations study found that just 2.4% of mediators and 9% of negotiators are women, and just 4% of the signatories of 31 peace processes), the inclusion of women can make a profound difference. Peace is more likely to endure: An analysis by the US non-profit Inclusive Security of 182 signed peace agreements between 1989 and 2011 found that an agreement is 35% more likely to last at least 15 years if women are included as negotiators, mediators, and signatories.

Women succeed as mediators and negotiators because of qualities traditionally perceived as feminine and maternal. In Northern Ireland, Somalia, and South Africa, female participants in peace processes earned a reputation for fostering dialogue and engaging all sides. They are also often seen as honest brokers, more trustworthy and less threatening, because they act outside formal power structures. Yet despite the perception of softness and malleability, their actions are often quite the opposite. In 2003, the Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee led a coalition of thousands of Muslim and Christian women in picketing, praying and fasting that helped to end the country’s brutal 14-year civil war. Dubbed ‘a warrior for peace,’ Gbowee shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Terms such as warrior, weapons, and revolution are often used for groups that agitate for peace, among whom women continue to be ‘disproportionately highly represented’, according to the UN. In Israel, Women Wage Peace organizes protests to pressure the government to work towards a viable peace agreement. In Argentina, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo ‘revolutionized’ motherhood by protesting the disappearance of their children during Argentina’s ‘dirty war’ from 1977 to 1983, transforming maternity from a passive role to one of public strength.

The weaponizing of traditional notions of femininity was also a strong component of the decade-long women’s peace camp at Greenham Common in the UK. Beginning in 1981 as a protest against the arrival of 96 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the US air base in Berkshire, the women surrounded and cut the fences of the air base, clambered over the barrier dressed as teddy bears, and pinned babies’ clothes, bottles, teething rings, diapers, and family photos to the wires. Their battle was no less militant than Thatcher’s war in the Falklands, yet she dismissed the women as an “eccentricity.”

It seems that, no matter whether women are fighting for peace or for war, they must also battle against the assumption that they themselves are passive, weak, or peculiar. History shows us that that isn’t true, and that, in the case of Isabella I and Ferdinand V, they could be relentlessly cruel: Not only did the royal couple lead the Spanish conquest of the Islamic Kingdom of Granada in 1492, expelling both Jews and Muslims, they tortured those who remained and converted them to Christianity—in some cases burning them to death.

Nor are they always as peaceable as their personal history suggests: Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights,” has been widely condemned for failing to denounce the country’s military for its campaign of ethnic cleansing against the persecuted Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state. According to Human Rights Watch, since August 25 2017, more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across the border to Bangladesh to escape the army’s barrage of arson, atrocities, and rape.

As Caprioli notes: “Women leaders can indeed be forceful when confronted with violent, aggressive and dangerous international situations,” but they can also be aggressive in the cause of peace. It is, indeed, a stereotype to dismiss women as inherently peaceable. As Swanwick wrote in The Future of the Women’s Movement (1913): “I wish to disclaim altogether the kind of assumption… in feminist talk of the present day.” That is, “the assumption that men have been the barbarians who loved physical force, and that women alone were civilized and civilizing. There are no signs of this in literature or history.”

Women's experience of world war one: Suffragists, pacifists and poets

The period of 1914–1918 was a time of immense change for women in Britain. The Suffragist movement, begun in 1867, gained irresistible force, culminating in the Act of 1918 in which women were given the vote at thirty and men at twenty-one. It was not until the 1928 Act that for the first time in the history of Britain there was full adult suffrage, granting the vote to both sexes at twenty-one. The picture is a complex one Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel identified their movement with the war effort, indeed their pre-war militancy became militarism. Mrs Fawcett, an avowed non-militant suffragist before the war, who believed in the verbal power of argument over revolutionary tactics, also supported the war effort and nationalism. However, there were other suffragists such as Sylvia Pankhurst, Emily Hobhouse, Catherine Marshall, Helena Swanwick, Olive Schreiner and Kate Courtney, who were opposed to the war. Mrs Pankhurst believed if women couldn't fight, they shouldn't vote. The pacifists believed that this view simply gave in to the argument for physical force. They also saw militarism as yet another version of the strong oppressing the weak and thus an emphatic form of patriarchy. However, although the suffragists were bitterly divided in their moral view of the war, they were united in the cause of women's emancipation.

The war itself provided all classes of women with important opportunities to work outside the home, as munition workers, land-army workers, police-women, doctors and nurses. The experience of change caused by the suffrage movement, together with the effect of the war upon women's lives, transformed women's image of themselves in radical and irreversible ways.

My paper draws on some 125 poems by 72 women poets Scars Upon My Heart is the first anthology of its kind and testifies to women's involvement in the war and the impact it had upon their lives. The anthology is necessary reading, together with the soldier poets like Owen, Sassoon, Blunden and Rosenberg, whose war poetry has been known to us for the past sixty years, for a full understanding of the significance of war for women and men.

Helena Swanwick -->

Ihr Vater Oswald Sickert war ein dänischer Maler, ihre Mutter Eleanor englisch-irischer Abstammung. Ihr Bruder war der bekannte Maler Walter Sickert. Als Schülerin las sie die B࿌her John Stuart Mills, die sich mit der Unterdr࿌kung der Frauen befassten. Diese beeinflussten ihren Weg zur Feministin. 1888 heiratete sie Frederick Swanwick und arbeitete als Journalistin. Sie war aktiv in der britischen Frauenwahlrechtsbewegung – und organisiert in der National Union of Women&aposs Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) – und war von 1909 bis 1912 Herausgeberin eines wཬhentlichen Journals, The Common Cause, auch war sie Mitglied der Labour Party.

Beim Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges, gehörte sie zu dem Teil der Bewegung, die wegen seiner pazifistischen Ansichten mit der NUWSS brach. Nach dem Krieg behielt sie ihre internationalistischen Ansichten bei, verurteilte den Versailler Vertrag und war 1929 Delegierte beim Völkerbund.

The suffragist and the 𠇊verage woman”

This paper questions the marginality of women's suffrage to the new social history of women in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain. In so doing, it seeks to challenge any notion of the suffragist and the “average woman” as absolutely distinct categories. Its argument draws on two major revisions underway in the historiography of this field: firstly, the growing recognition that “votes for women” was not simply a single-issue, equal rights demand, reflecting only a restricted liberal perspective secondly, the equally significant insistence on the need to apply more extended definitions of both the “political” and the “public” to women's history in this period. The autobiographical writings of Helena Swanwick, Hannah Mitchell and Mary Gawthorpe, it is argued, suggest that the meaning of the vote lies in the mesh experienced by such suffragists between the politics of ordinary, everyday life and their subsequent involvement in the formal politics of parliament and political parties.

Helena Swanwick and Evelyn Sharp - pioneering Guardian journalists

Helena Swanwick and Evelyn Sharp were pioneering Guardian journalists for nearly four decades. This month’s resource, which draws on archive material in the GNM Archive and at The University of Manchester Library, looks at their writing from the early 1900s, their relationship with editor CP Scott and their role in the women’s suffrage movement

Helena Swanwick’s application letter to CP Scott August 1899. Photograph: Courtesy of the University of Manchester

Helena Swanwick’s application letter to CP Scott August 1899. Photograph: Courtesy of the University of Manchester

Last modified on Mon 5 Feb 2018 12.39 GMT

When Madeline Lindford set up the Guardian women’s page in 1922 female journalists were few and far between. However there were two, Helena Swanwick and Evelyn Sharp, who were already well known to readers.

Helena Swanwick (1864-1929) was the daughter of the artist Oswald Sickert. While at school she read The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill and became a supporter of women’s suffrage. She attended Girton College, Cambridge thanks to her sympathetic godmother - her father refused to pay her fees. She studied moral sciences and after graduating she lectured in psychology at Westfield College. At Cambridge Helena met Frederick Swanwick, a lecturer in Mathematics at Owens College. The couple married in 1888 and moved to Manchester. Frederick shared her liberal views and they became friends of CP Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian.

The Guardian archive at The Manchester University Library has a short letter from Helena Swanwick to CP Scott, dated 4 August 1899, asking if he “would make trial of me by sending me a book to review for the Manchester Guardian.” She encloses two essays “as specimens of my writing” and also notes that she is fluent in French and German. She went on to review books for the paper under the byline HMS (it was the convention at the time to use initials only). An analysis of her early work for the Manchester Guardian shows her as a contributor of book reviews, observational pieces and articles that reflected her love of gardening.

Evelyn Sharp (1869-1955) was the daughter of a slate merchant. Although she passed several university examinations she was sent to finishing school in France. Against the wishes of her family, Sharp moved to London where she taught and wrote in her spare time. Her first novel was published in 1895.

In 1903 she began a relationship with the journalist Henry Nevinson. He was a contributor for a number of newspapers including the Manchester Guardian and with his encouragement from 1906 Sharp started to submit articles to the newspaper. Unlike Helena Swanwick, most of Evelyn Sharp’s articles appeared with her byline in full on the Guardian’s back page. Her early articles mainly focused on fashion such as commentary on how to dress when sea bathing in 1906. Like Swanwick she contributed observational pieces and articles on household management.

Both Swanwick and Sharp were influential in the women’s suffrage movement. In 1903 Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst broke away from the main suffrage movement National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). They were frustrated with the lack of results from years of ‘constitutional’ campaigning and set up Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) with the slogan of “Deeds not words”. Swanwick joined the NUWSS in 1905.

In October 1906, after she had submitted a few articles for the Guardian, Sharp was asked by the Guardian to report on a suffrage rally in Tunbridge Wells where NUWSS leader Millicent Fawcett was speaking. The article (bylined “from our own correspondent”) relates a dramatic moment when actress and new WSPU member Elizabeth Robins stepped onto the platform and criticised the press for their coverage of the WSPU. Robins said she “found an earnest band of women working for a common cause without any of the unlovely qualities described in the press.” Sharp’s biographer Angela V John cites this as a crucial turning point in her life. Following the meeting she joined the Kensington branch of the WSPU.

CP Scott supported votes for women but not the increasing militancy of the WSPU which he felt hindered the cause. He believed there was enough coverage of the issue in news and editorial so it was rare for Swanwick and Sharp to write articles on the issue. In July 1907 Swanwick wrote a piece highlighting the work of the women’s suffrage movement thus far and on how she and her NUWSS colleagues petitioned voters, a yard away from the polling station, as a new law stated, in July 1909 . Sharp has an article on selling the WSPU Votes for Women magazine in Kensington in February 1908 and on the types of voters going to a polling station in December 1910.

Swanwick and Sharp also appear in Guardian news articles and on the letters pages. In 1909 Swanwick moved to London and became editor of the NUWSS journal, The Common Cause. Speeches she gave are reported in the Guardian. In November 1910 Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith let a proposed Conciliation Bill giving a million women the vote run out of time. A WSPU delegation to Parliament was met with heavy police resistance. Swanwick and Sharp have letters published on the same correspondence page on 25 November. Swanwick’s urges Scott to take issue with Asquith and his failed promises, Sharp’s criticises an editorial on the women’s subsequent actions and explains why a WSPU colleague vandalised Asquith’s car. Scott adds a footnote to Sharp’s letter reiterating the paper’s view.

First page of a letter from Evelyn Sharp to CP Scott, 22 November 1911. Photograph: Courtesy of The University of Manchester and the Michael Ayrton Estate

In November 1911 Sharp became involved in WSPU militant action for the first time and was arrested for smashing the windows of the War Office in protest at demise of a new Conciliation Bill in the House of Commons. The Manchester University Library has a letter from her, dated 22 November, to CP Scott from Bow Street police court. She starts with: “ If I am in prison you will understand why I cannot send you any articles for the present: I think you have one in hand.” She then goes on to criticise Scott’s editorial on the militant action. She was imprisoned for 14 days. She continued to be involved in militant action and after her “in hand” article appeared, a book review on the history of the pin, did not have any more pieces in the Guardian until autumn 1914.

Sharp continues to be mentioned regularly in news pieces giving speeches at rallies and being arrested in July 1913 after being forcibly ejected from the House of Commons after failing to gain admittance to talk to MPs about the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act (Temporary discharge for ill health).

Sharp felt the Guardian’s editorial on the death of Emily Wilding Davison at the Epsom Derby, in June 1913, insulted the efforts of the women’s suffrage movement. CP Scott footnoted her letter reiterating the paper’s view of WSPU militancy. A similar footnote from Scott appears on Sharp’s letter defending the actions of Mary Richardson who vandalised Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus painting in the National Gallery in March 1914.

Watch the video: Andy Nicolas - Elena. Official Video Clip (January 2022).